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Supporting a Professor’s Commitment to Catholic Social Teaching

Dr. Vito Punzi

A long-time champion of the principles of Catholic Social Teaching, Chemical Engineering Professor Vito Punzi, PhD, PE, has been recognized by Villanova University with two new opportunities to expand his efforts in this area—a VERITAS grant and a visiting scholar position with the Center for Peace and Justice Education.

The VERITAS Faculty Research Program supports scholarly research that takes inspiration from and/or reflects the values of Villanova University's Catholic and Augustinian heritage. Administered jointly by the Associate Vice Provost for Research and the Office of Mission and Ministry, the purpose of the program is “to encourage faculty to bring to bear on their research a perspective that reflects Villanova's concern for religious values, the Catholic intellectual tradition, Catholic social thought, and/or the Augustinian heritage of encouraging dialogue between religious faith and contemporary life.”

This summer, Dr. Punzi will be researching "Social Justice: A Key Component of the Discerning Engineer's Vocation." He says, “The goal is to further my understanding of the themes of Catholic Social Teaching and how these themes can be used to motivate students and practicing engineers on the importance of social justice as a basic component of an engineer’s personal and professional life.”

Complementing the VERITAS grant is Dr. Punzi’s new position as a 2019–2020 visiting scholar with the Center for Peace and Justice Education. Internal to the Villanova community, the CPJE initiative increases collaboration between various departments/colleges and lays the groundwork for the expansion of interdisciplinary Peace and Justice courses. In addition, visiting scholars—of which there are two a year—contribute resources, contacts and opportunities within their areas of expertise to strengthen research possibilities for Villanova students, CPJE’s lectures and events, and future opportunities for CPJE graduates and alumni.

Dr. Punzi’s engagement with Catholic Social Teaching began in 2006 after he participated in a curriculum development workshop on the topic of incorporating CST into the classroom. He initially dedicated one 75-minute class period a year to understanding and applying CST. He then developed a one-credit course, which leveraged real-world case studies to fuse CST principles with tactics that engineers can incorporate into their solutions to engineering problems. That course was first offered in spring 2011. It later was expanded into the current three-credit course “Catholic Social Teaching for Engineers.”

“My hope,” says Dr. Punzi, “is that we develop engineers who are not only technically competent and ethical but are socially conscious and responsible as well.”